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Worker bee with pollen

Worker bee with pollen

I had a little brainstorm today, (just a squall really, but on a significant topic.) I have osteoarthritis in hip and back (as well as EDS), and it’s been bothering me a lot of late.

Today as A was home we were talking about how I’ve been feeling for the past few weeks. And I told her that several weeks ago I was doing great, was even walking without a cane for the first time in ages.

And it hit me – that was right when I had a bad bee sting that left a big load of bee venom in my left leg (the one affected by the arthritis) as I was stung dealing with a hive that tilted over.

The following couple of weeks I was practically dancing about, at the Chiro we celebrated, because I was walking without my cane.

Then this past week with all the rain we’ve been having, I’ve been struggling again. Really bad pain a couple of times, *really* bad. Like, 11 on a scale of one to ten.

And it hit me this morning, could the bee sting have caused me to improve enough to walk without the cane? I haven’t been stung in several weeks, and any venom in my system would have worn off.

So I called my friend G, a longtime beekeeper, who had spoken to me of apitherapy several months ago, before I was diagnosed with EDS and thought I had fibromyalgia. He said apitherapy worked to relieve fibro, and that all came back in a flood today.

I was due to go out and check on the bees today anyway, so I took a small jar (with holes in the lid) along with me, and scooped up three worker bees as I was out there. I then put them in the fridge for about an hour to slow them down enough to work with.

Sadly, when honeybees sting, they die, as the stinger is pulled from their bodies. That part makes me feel pretty wretched. But I also know that when my pain gets this bad, I can barely cope with much of anything, so I felt I needed to ask for their sacrifice to help me regain my health.

As G had instructed, I took then then-chilled bees out of the fridge, and put them on a smooth plate, leaving the small glass jar over two as I waited for one to wake back up. When she did, I grasped her by the thorax, and tried to get her to sting me, to no avail for some time. Finally, A handed me a piece of paper towel which I used to hold the bee against my hip, and huzzah, she stung me!

Now, who’d have thought I’d be glad to be stung by a bee. That sounds so silly. But there is a long history of apitherapy as natural medicine. And since I do have bees now, why not use it to heal myself?!

I gave myself three stings, and G says it can take up to three days to feel the effects, but I am already so relieved and feeling better just mentally to think I have something I can do to deal with this pain that doesn’t involve some $200 a month prescription for a med which doesn’t really work well enough anyway.

Time will tell. I’m going to blog to see how long this will last, and how often I need to re-apply the venom. Some people are apparently cured after only several treatments! And apitherapy apparently works wonders for MS too, according to Dr. Google.

I gave thanks to each of the dear bees as they stung me, and then put them out of their misery once the stinger came out. I didn’t want them to suffer. And I am so grateful! Having bees is so wonderful on so many levels, and as A said “I’ve been surrounded by natural medicine all my life, this feels so normal!”

Keep your fingers crossed for me, and I’ll keep you updated. Bless the bees!

I’ve been a Natmed mom for many years now, and am one of the “older moms” in a group of friends who mostly have younger kids (mine are in their late teens.) Often I find myself recommending the same things over and over, so thought I’d write it up here so I can just post a link in the future (lazy git that I am.)

IMO, there is a short list of natural medicine items that no home or family should be without. Herewith:

1. The homeopathic remedy Arnica Montana. Keep it in pill form in several potencies (I like to make “chords”, which I’ll write about later), like 6x, 12c, and 30c if you can find them. I like the meltaway tablets made by Hylands, they’re easiest for kids.

2. Arnica Montana in gel form. It is a must have for any minor trauma that doesn’t involve broken skin/blood. The best thing known to man for preventing and reducing the effects of bruises, just pure magic. See my previous post about the horse who stomped on my foot for more info about the gel.

3. The Bach Flower Essence Rescue Remedy. It comes in drop and spray form, and for kids the spray is much easier to use. Again, perfect for falls, bumps, bruises, bashed fingers, whatever may make a child (or adult!) mentally or emotionally upset. It works on the mind and emotions to remove the fear/angst of whatever traumatic event might have transpired. I used it extensively during the time after my mother’s sudden death, as I had so much to do and needed to put aside my grief for a time so that I could function. It calms and boosts the mind and spirit, and I carry it and Arnica pills in my purse at all times.

4. The homeopathic remedy Apis Mellifluca, fairly specific to bee and insect stings and bites.

5. Tea Tree Oil, which is a natural topical antibiotic (again, not for broken skin) and fungus fighter. Best used diluted, depending on the type you buy, I prefer unscented almond oil to dilute mine, but your mileage may vary, choose a carrier oil that works for you. And please keep it away from small children in its undiluted form, as it can be toxic if ingested.

6. Ginger, either in crystalline form or as a tea. Perfect for upset tummies and safe for pregnant moms.

7. The essential oil Lavender. Wonderful for its calming effect, on man or beast (I used to use it on a horse we had who was very nervous, and it worked a treat.) Great for adding a few drops to a warm bath, or a steamy washcloth, or just in a diffuser.

8. Elderberry tincture or syrup. I posted at length here about the wonders of elderberry, and if I had to pick just one herb to have in the house, this would be the one.

9. Badger Balm Sleep Balm, wonderful stuff for anyone dealing with insomnia who doesn’t want to go the allopathic route and take pills that might make you do weird stuff like “sleep eating.”

10. Last but not least, two great books for any Natmed family’s bookshelf: Prescription for Nutritional Healing by Phyllis Balch, and the Family Guide to Homeopathy by Andrew Lockie. You can find them at most bookstores and health food stores.

These are the ten Natmed items I’d stock a first aid kit with. I wouldn’t want to be without these as I go through life, and I recommend them to all.

In her blog Uneasy Pink my good friend Katie posted a link to an enlightening (not in a good way) video and website that I want to share with you all. The site is The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, and the video is a pretty cute treatment of a decidedly unsettling subject. The bottom line is, the cosmetics and personal health care products we all use every day contain a myriad of toxic and dangerous chemicals, some of which have never been tested, and a number of which wind up being stored in our bodies forever, having who knows what consequences!

I won’t reiterate the information available on the site and in the video, it’s well worth watching/reading. And I will admit that I’m not going to toss all my cosmetics and personal care products into the garbage this second. But I am going to do some research to find ways to attain the results I’m looking for without becoming a walking talking toxic waste dump. I don’t wear a lot of makeup these days, (living on a farm and doing chores in the Kentucky high heat makes makeup slide right off my face), but when I do, I’m going to look for safer things to wear.

And while I’m past childbearing, my two daughters are not, and this is a strong motivator for me to find things for them to use that will keep them, and my future grandchildren safe. Even things we’d think would be pure and “natural” such as baby shampoos, apparently contain toxic chemicals, which seems wrong on so many levels.

While I’m doing my research (about which I’ll report back here from time to time), I’m going to shop more wisely for personal care products. I found a great card to print out and carry in my purse here at the Environmental Working Group‘s website, where they have a Shoppers Guide to Safe Cosmetics. The EWG has a database where you can plug in items you use, and see them rated according to a “Hazard Score” (see this FAQ for the explanation of how they rate products.) Very enlightening, and somewhat scary. But knowledge is power, and once we know what’s safe and what’s not so much, we can search for alternatives.

I want to thank my friend Katie for kick-starting me on this quest, as a Natmed guru, I should have addressed this issue long ago. Thanks Bug!

More and more scientists are finding links between adequate amounts of sleep and human health on so many levels. A recent article by Newsweek seen here speaks of the myriad problems associated with sleep deprivation. The most surprising thing for me was the statement that “Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania restricted volunteers to less than six hours in bed per night for two weeks. The volunteers perceived only a small increase in sleepiness and thought they were functioning relatively normally. However, formal testing showed that their cognitive abilities and reaction times progressively declined during the two weeks. By the end of the two-week test, they were as impaired as subjects who had been awake continuously for 48 hours.”

Rather astounding really, and somewhat frightening. So many of us in our hurried lives skimp on sleep, and only now is science becoming truly aware of the toll it takes on us. Hormone levels are affected, never in good ways. And there’s a surprising link between lack of sleep and weight gain. Really.

As far back as 2004, USA Today did a story highlighting the link, see it here. Among other things, the studies quoted in the article show “sleep deprivation activates a small part of the hypothalamus, the region of the brain that also is involved in appetite regulation.” Too little sleep, and we find ourselves craving carbs and gaining weight.

And while for some it might take some time to teach ourselves to sleep more, (especially those who suffer from insomnia), for most of us it’s often just a matter of making sleep a priority. Turn off the tv, put down the book, and go to bed early. Get yourself some light blocking curtains, a sound machine, even a sleep mask (as my friend suggests in The Yummy List), go for that Zsa Zsa look! Whatever it takes to get a minimum of 7-9 hours. If you’re having trouble sleeping, two things I’ve used that help are Badger Sleep Balm, and the homeopathic remedy Calms Forte. Both are natural, non-habit forming, and in my experience, really help.

I’ve been working on increasing my sleep time of late, and one of the things that most interests me is that since doing so, I am remembering my dreams, where before I wasn’t. Now, I haven’t done a lot of research yet on the differences between REM and NREM dreaming and their effects on our physiology, but I’m betting if I do, I’ll find a link (more on that in a later post perhaps.) But I can’t help but think that more dreams are a sign that more sleep is A Good Thing. And hey, if it helps me lose some weight, that would be all right too!

So give it a try, you never know how it might help. In this hectic day and age we all too often feel tied to our work/cell phones/email. Set yourself free of those chains, if only at night, and sleep!

A really bad headache can be terribly debilitating. And when they last several days, all you want to do is crawl into bed with the curtains closed and hide from the world. Loud noises, strong smells, any number of things can make them worse.

But the good news is, there are things you can do other than take aspirin or prescription meds to help fix a bad headache. The first thing to try is the two acupressure points used in Chinese Medicine. The first is in the back of your head, the second in the web between the thumb and forefinger. Steady pressure there will cure almost all bad headaches. This website has excellent info and good illustrations of how to apply the points:

(Note that the hand pressure point should be avoided by those who are pregnant, as it can cause uterine contractions.)

A great aromatherapy option is Peppermint oil, applied to the forehead. Be sure to dilute the essential oil with a carrier oil (like almond) to a 10% solution. Studies have shown that this can significantly reduce the severity of headaches within 15 minutes or so (see more about the NIH study.)

Another wonderful remedy is Feverfew tea. I take about an ounce of organic loose leaf herb and pour about a cup of boiling water over it. Let it steep for at least five minutes, as long as ten. Then strain, and sweeten with a bit of honey to taste.

(Feverfew should also be avoided by pregnant women. And as with all herbs, check with your MD before use.)

The energy healing known as Reiki is also a wonderful treatment for headaches, if you can find a practitioner near you, ideally one who will come to your home and treat you, it can work wonders!

And last but not least, if you’re not a big coffee/tea drinker, a good strong cuppa can sometimes do what it takes to break a bad headache. This is a good reason why children and teens should not drink routinely caffeine, as it’s such a great tool to have in your arsenal when they get a bad headache.

Water is easy to overlook. But it’s the most important nutrient there is. And getting a pure source of water is harder than you’d think, especially if you want to stay “green” while doing so.

I have avoided straight drinking tap water for many years. When we moved to KY we discovered our house had a cistern, about which I was hesitant at first. Rainwater, rolling off the roof and into our pipes? But it worked fairly well, and with a three stage filtration system (big filter at the pump, smaller one under the kitchen sink, put that into a Britta), I was relatively comfortable with drinking that, especially since it started out as rain.

Two years ago though, our cistern cracked during a drought. Never having lived through a drought before, we didn’t know that one must actually water the foundation of a house to prevent it from cracking. Who knew? With the crack came water in the basement, not a big flood, but a seeping crawl that was nonetheless annoying.

So we had the cistern pumped out and fixed (five days to dry, oh my!) And went on our merry way. However the following spring, when we had beaucoup rain, the darned house shifted again and the cistern cracked yet again. That’s when I put my foot down, and we had a water line run down from the street (a not inconsiderable distance.) City water, yay!

Or, not so much. I am less than pleased with the city water we get. It smells very strongly of chlorine. I don’t like bathing in it, making tea with it (it also has a high mineral content), much less drinking it. So for the past while we’ve been buying distilled water at the store and bringing it home. Far from ideal, especially with the resultant empty plastic containers. Our area has no provision for recycling at all, so those all go in the landfill, which I hate.

So at this point I am researching Reverse Osmosis water filter systems. We used to have one when we lived in Duluth and I really liked it. They’re much cheaper than buying a distiller, and while there are downsides to each (RO systems need filters about every four months, distillers have to be cleaned each time), I think the RO system will work better for us.

But the bottom line for me is, I want and need the water we drink to be totally free of chemicals. This is an absolute for me. I know a lot of people are comfortable with drinking tap water, but I just am not, especially in light of recent studies such as this one: Tap water contaminant ‘castrates’ frogs found in an article released Monday from the National Academy of Sciences that discusses the presence of the herbicide Atrazine in common tap water across the US. Thanks, but no thanks to that! Happily, Home Depot sells a GE RO system for only a couple hundred dollars, and it shouldn’t cost too much to be installed. I’ll have to find somewhere else to store my plastic wrap and tinfoil, but I can live with that.

No two ways about it, artificial sweeteners are just plain not good for you. Not that an excess of sugar is either, I’m not saying that at all. But the most common artificial sweetener, Aspartame, is just flat-out terrible.

Aspartame, commonly sold under the name Nutrasweet, has recently been re-branded by its owner Ajinomoto’ as a “new” product with a new name. And charmingly, they have renamed it “AminoSweet” and are touting it as being “natural.” “Natural” is a very slippery term, and I think that the perception that most folks have is that something labeled “Natural” is free from chemical additives and comes from ingredients that have not been chemically manipulated.

I don’t want to go into a huge diatribe about the evils of Aspartame, there’s a ton of info out there on the Internet about it, just Google the name and you’ll find over two million hits with information both pro and con. But if you sift through the info available out there, a number of facts come through:

  • Aspartame easily breaks down into phenylalanine, aspartic acid (aspartate) and methanol, which then turns into formaldehyde in the human body. There are many reasons why this is a bad thing, not the least if which are the effects on the human nervous system and the brain.
  • Aspartame actually inhibits the body’s ability to metabolize fat. Yes, that’s right. A diet additive can cause a reduction in your ability to lose weight. This happens when the chemical is ingested and goes straight to the liver, where it is broken down into the components shown above. During that process, the liver has less cells available to metabolize fat, so fat becomes stored rather than burned.
  • A study funded by Monsanto (which used to own the rights to the product) to study possible birth defects caused by consuming aspartame was cut off after preliminary data showed damaging information about aspartame. Have to wonder why they stopped investigating?

These are only a few of the reasons why artificial sweeteners like Aspartame should be avoided. I lump all the Aspartame brands together: Nutrasweet, Equal, Canderel. As well, I recommend avoiding the following: Neotame, Sucralose (Splenda, Altern), and Acesulfame-K (Sunette, Sweet & Safe, Sweet One.)

Stevia seems to be relatively safe to use, but as with any sweetener, I would avoid high amounts. It takes time, but you can train your body to do without sugar in your coffee or on your cereal, honey in your tea, or corn syrup in foods. Once you’ve gotten away from sugar/sweeteners in your food, you’ll be amazed at how sweet certain foods taste, almost to the point where they’ll make you gag.

Again, I’m not holding myself up as some paragon of healthiness here, I have a large and meaningful sweet tooth, no question of that. But if you must indulge your sweet tooth, do it with real sugar. Drink a Coke, not a Diet Coke. Or better yet, just go for some plain old water.

See these links for more info:

If you do nothing else, if you get no other reference works when it comes to all things Natmed, there are two books you must have. Parent or not. Single, mother of multiples, senior citizen, doesn’t matter. These two books should come as operating manuals for every human:

Prescription for Nutritional Healing by Balch & Balch, and Family Guide to Homeopathy: Symptoms and Natural Solutions by Andrew Lockie. Between these two you can cover the spectrum of prevention and healing for yourself and others.

Although you should, you don’t have to read these books cover to cover, they are wonderful for when you’re dealing with a specific ailment and need good advice soonest. The Lockie book assumes you have access to a good health food store with a wide choice of homeopathic remedies, if you don’t, don’t panic, he often gives you several choices, and remedies can be ordered online easily these days.

These two are easily found at places like or B&N brick and mortar stores, you can even find older editions on eBay (older editions are likely just fine to use, my Balch & Balch is at least 14 years old.)

In later posts I’ll go into more depth about how to use homeopathy, how to pick the right remedy for a given person/situation, and how not to go off the deep end with vitamins (all too easy to do.) But for now, if you don’t have these books, get ’em!

Tip of the Day

A ten percent solution of Peppermint essential oil mixed with a neutral carrier oil, applied to the forehead can reduce or eliminate a headache in minutes.


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